The voices of Young People Key to Trinidad and Tobago winning the Bid. It's their Games.
Fidel Castro once said, "a revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past".
The young people of the Commonwealth sport movement are demanding political, economic and social change. They believe that many of the commitments made by the older generation - the elite, the political establishment and decision makers in respect of the espoused values of humanity, diversity, inclusion, equity and fairness are mere words and nothing more than ink on paper. The youth and young people want their voices to be heard.
Thursday 20th June 2019, will live long in the memory for more reasons than one. On that day in Birmingham, England Mrs Annette Knott(Secretary General) and I wearing our Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games Association hat had 30 minutes to convince the Commonwealth Games Federation (the CGF) Executive Board led by CGF President Dame Louise Martin to make a paradigm shift and alter the status quo that Africa and the Caribbean struggles with . The reality of the Geographic and Regional footprint of the Commonwealth Games Federation Games since 1930 is revealing and instructive. No Games in eight decades have ever been held in Africa and only one in the Caribbean-53 years ago -1966 Kingston, Jamaica.
To date there have been six editions of the Commonwealth Youth Games - none in the Commonwealth Games Federation Africa or Caribbean region. That Trinidad and Tobago was swimming against the tide and the odds is not an exaggeration.
Gibraltar - the British Overseas Territory - was considered " the safe pair of hands." They were weeks away from hosting the 2019 Island Games. The actual opening ceremony is 6th July the Games ends 12th July. 14 sports and 2000 athletes. So Gibraltar was as prepared as any potential host could be. No drama. No stress.
It has been highlighted in the media and public domain that Trinidad and Tobago's bid proposal had at the centre of the bid concept the voice of females, youth and young people. Their ideas, their opinion, their dreams, their vision of how they imagine the Commonwealth Youth Games to be. The modern Commonwealth operates in a new world and era with emergent opportunities, risks and dangers.
What Mrs. Knott and I had to do was articulate the message of the young people of Trinidad and Tobago and by extension the modern and connected Commonwealth. Last year when Northern Ireland pulled out as 2021 CYG host and the CGF had to seek a replacement host. The decision to throw Trinidad and Tobago's hat in the ring wasn't based on a mere fanciful quixotic tilt. It was based on the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee's incessant advocacy for a Sport Industry TT. The TTOC host a sport industry conference annually. The premise being that Trinidad and Tobago can be a serious player in the global sport tourism sector. It is a long standing view of the TTOC which also acts as the twin Island Republic's Commonwealth Games Association.
But it's not an easy task to deliver a multi sport event involving 71 countries across 9 sports.
So suggestions made by those who ought to know better that the Commonwealth Youth Games is a simple event and not complicated must be an inadvertent mistake. No International multi sport event is simple and uncomplicated.
Furthermore, Trinidad and Tobago has no history of staging a multi sport event of the stature of a Commonwealth multi sport event. Our first attempt at hosting a multi sport event - the 2009 Caribbean Games- was cut short due to the H1N1 Virus. A debacle that undermined Trinidad and Tobago's international reputation as a legitimate and credible multi sport host.
So let's not act as if the Commonwealth Youth Games is a small thing.
If we are serious about our sport tourism ambitions and putting to good use billions of T&T dollars of world class facilities. Everyone coming together with an open mind and no ulterior motives is a critical success factor.
The 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games can either be a positive catalyst for Trinidad and Tobago's sport tourism aspirations or it could be our Waterloo.
The choice is ours to make. Winning the bid wasn't easy. Its therefore important that we grab the opportunity.
We have to look beyond this moment in history and forge a concept of a future based on revolution and transformation.
I wish to place on record the Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games gratitude for the support of the Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Ms Shamfa Cudjoe and the Government. Without the letter of Government guarantee the bid process would have been a non starter. It was a CGF requirement that the bid proposal include an official letter of Government support and guarantee.
As I write today's blog/column I am still making my way home.
I look forward to discussing this historic effort. I am aware that there are those who have their doubts and concerns. The coming weeks will be important as time is not Trinbago2021 friend. There is no margin for error.
The era of colonisation is long gone. We are authors of our own destiny now, for better or worse. We sink or swim together.
The stakes are high and the outcome will impact the Trinidad and Tobago sport industry and I dare say the Commonwealth Games Federation( the CGF) Caribbean Region for a long time.